by Matt Slick
Whether or not it is okay to use cell phones in church depends on the situation and the reason. We cannot say that it is always wrong to use a cell phone in church, any more than we can say it is always okay to use a cell phone in church. Different situations warrant different answers. I would say that sometimes it's okay and sometimes it is not, depending on the circumstances. Let's consider some different scenarios.
Using a cell phone to check the Bible during the sermon, okay
I don't see any problem with using a cell phone to follow along in the Bible while listening to the sermon. Personally, I have a large smartphone, and I use it during church to follow along, check Greek and Hebrew, consult commentaries, etc. Furthermore, I like to sit in the very back of the church. One of the reasons is so that my cell phone usage does not distract anyone else. There is a light emitted that can be, of course, distracting to others. So, I do not want to disturb anyone.
Another benefit of using cellphones curing church is access to online bible websites that are great for checking different versions of the Bible. Consider biblehub.com and blueletterbible.com, etc. Stand-alone apps on the phone are good, too. Some of them are YouVersion and Olive Tree.
On the negative side, there's always the temptation to also check out the News, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram while in Church. This can be distracting and can potentially hinder hearing the word of God.
Casual cell phone conversation during church, not okay
But what if someone were to open up a cell phone during the sermon and start chatting away? That would be, of course, impolite and inappropriate. If you have to talk on the phone, then leave the sanctuary. It is simple. But, I'm surprised that so many people chat on phones during the service - though it really isn't that common.
Responding to an emergency in church, okay
It should go without saying that using a cell phone in church due to an emergency is okay. At the time of writing this article, my wife is recovering from open heart surgery. After a few weeks of her recuperation, I felt that it was okay for me to go to church while she rested at home. My cell phone would be on (vibrate is good) so that if she needed me, I could respond. That would be okay. A quick text would not require me to disturb anyone else (much?). But, if she needed me, I could leave. Not a problem.
Do I have to mention the issue playing games during a sermon? Generally speaking, it's not a good idea. However, I am aware that there are people who do better listening to a sermon while their hands are busy. I know there are those who have trouble concentrating for long stretches and a quick distraction is helpful. Now, I'm not justifying the use of playing games but I'm aware that there are different kinds of people who learn differently and have different challenges regarding levels and ability of concentration. So, without approving of playing games on your cell phone during sermons, I do acknowledge that there are people who actually learn better that way.
So, using a cell phone in church is good or bad depending on the circumstance and the reasons. But, we must remember that the purpose of going to church is to hear the word of God and fellowship with other believers. If our cell phones become a distraction, then perhaps we might want to consider turning them off altogether or putting them on vibrate in case of emergency.